Swim like the fishes

by • March 2, 2016 • 2016, Cover Story, February 2016

By Janeen Christoff

Learning to swim early in life is safer and smarter

I’m going to be honest: It is my dream to see my daughters swim in the Olympics. When running through the list of activities that they would do as children, swimming was at the top of my list – way above dance class, soccer practice and piano lessons. So, when we found Australian Swim School’s Baby Swim Program, we were hooked. However, swimming lessons, particularly for small children, aren’t just for Olympic hopefuls (or parents of them). Learning to swim is a choice that is both smart and safe.

“Water is all around us,” says Diane Bainbridge, CEO of Australian Swim School. “Pools, spas, rivers, lakes and the ocean can be aquatic playgrounds, or they can turn into a dangerous liability in a heartbeat. Learning to swim is essential for everyone.” Beyond the obvious safety reasons, Bainbridge points out that learning to swim provides other benefits as well.

“Swimming promotes health and wellness for all age groups, from infants to senior citizens,” she says. “Water links us to our mental, social and physical selves.”

Research is on her side. According to a recent study from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research in Australia, children who learned to swim at an early age were ahead of their peers in developmental milestones, such as oral expression, literacy, math and more. Considering swimming’s mental and physical benefits, it’s no wonder parents are increasingly interested in enrolling their children in swimming lessons early.

So what makes Australian Swim School so successful? An internal instructor training program that emphasizes swim techniques as well as child development principles and carefully crafted class routines have been fine-tuned over three decades. But their world-renowned Baby Swim Program is what really put Australian Swim School on the map. It arguably pioneered the baby pool-safe movement that swept the nation beginning in the 1970s. In the Baby Swim Program babies and toddlers were taught to roll over and float on their backs in the event that they fell into a backyard pool or spa. As the pool-safe children progressed in capabilities, however, so did Australian Swim School. In the 1980s, these babies grew and developed into excellent competitive swimmers, competing in the Orange County Swim Conference swim meets. People were amazed at the high level of technique and swimming competency these 5- to 8-year-olds were capable of – and Australian Swim School became a destination for families interested in competitive swimming.

Today, Australian Swim School is a charter member of the United States Swim School Association, the country’s governing body of swim schools. Diane and her team hosted the very first conference in 1987 and played an integral part in creating the infant-toddler swim guidelines that are used across the country today.

002Scott-Sporleder---McFaddenMy daughters have now graduated out of Australian Swim School’s Baby Swim Program, and I can attest to the program’s merits personally. My 4-year-old swims like a fish. She is one of the youngest kids at the school’s Manatee level, a class in which kids perfect all four strokes: the backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly and freestyle.

For Orange County parents who are interested in training budding Olympians – or who are just looking for swim instruction for their own children – Australian Swim School is now even more accessible. After 39 years of operating swim schools within health clubs and other aquatic venues – including locations in Anaheim, Tarzana and Fountain Valley – Australian Swim School opened its first purpose-built swim school, designed especially for our swimming families in Santa Ana.

Located at 1404 Village Way in Santa Ana, the swim school brings everything together in a single comprehensive indoor complex. Centered around a 20-meter pool, the location features a party room available for rental that has been a huge hit for birthday parties as well as changing and shower areas with stalls and changing tables for small children. The facility is also home to a 70-foot mural, depicting a colorful undersea spectacle that adorns the wall above the pool.

From March through May, Australian Swim School is running a special for first-time clients: Under age 3 swims for free for the first month (a $75 value).

Thankfully, my children love the water. Whether that is a genetic thing or because I put them in swimming lessons before they could walk – the jury is still out. What I do know, however, is that they are safe both in and out of the water and that makes everything more fun.

Pool Safety Tips:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that backyard pools can be a fatal attraction to toddlers and that drowning is a leading cause of death to children under age five. With that in mind, here are some water safety tips to follow:

  • Never, ever take your eyes off your child in the pool, spa or bathtub.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Floatable devices, including floaties, are not water safety devices.
  • Door alarms, pet doors and fences can be manoeuvred by little ones.
  • If you have a pool or spa, consider a secure pool cover.
  • Elect a “Water Watcher” complete with a lanyard and whistle especially in pool party settings. Adults can takes turns as the watcher.
  • Have a phone near the pool or spa area.
  • If a child goes missing check the pool or spa first.
  • Beware of leaving your children with a babysitter or family member who has a pool or spa. Talk to your friends and relatives about water safety.
  • Learn to Swim. Enroll your children in a reputable swim school year-round for continued skill attainment. Most schools offer lessons from as young as six months. Remember: Taking swimming lessons is a journey – enjoy their progress and think long-term safety and fitness.

Opposite: The Australian Swim School in Santa Ana features a state-of-the-art 20-meter pool, changing and shower areas with stalls and changing tables for small children, a colorful 70-foot mural and a party room available for rent.  Above: Australian Swim School’s Baby Swim Program took off in the 1970s as babies were taught to roll over and float on their backs in the event that they fell into a backyard pool or spa. Babies learn pool safety as early as six months old.

Australian Swim School is located at 1404 Village Way in Santa Ana. For more information, call (855) 794-6232 or visit

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